I have mentioned before how large my family is, so to host the entire clan is quite an undertaking. Sometimes the count may even reach around 30, but on average about 20-25. This year was a little different because my Aunt Maureen, Uncle Alan and their 3 boys moved to Utah this summer. For the past several years Maureen has always hosted Thanksgiving dinner. Every year I went to Maureen's the day before to help her set the table. You wouldn't typically think that setting a table would take all afternoon, but when you are trying to fit 20 some people all around one table, it takes some time. Thanksgiving Eve was always a special time for me because it allowed me an opportunity to spend the afternoon with my Aunt Maureen who is also very much my friend. Maureen would be working in the kitchen putting together what she could a day ahead and I would be clipping flowers assembling the centerpiece while catching her up on whatever drama was currently going on in my life. An afternoon I will be missing terribly this year.
Thanksgiving was special at Maureen's for several reasons. She always made sure that we were able to fit everyone around the table. This usually meant putting together many different sized tables stretching out into the hallway, BUT we all sat together.
One of the many tips I have picked up from Maureen- Keep notes from year to year. Maureen had notes scribbled next to her recipes about what worked and what didn't. She also drew little diagrams of the table configurations we came up with so that we could refer back to them in the years to come depending on the amount of people. Trust me, we came up with some creative table shapes.
Maureen's hosting skills have always impressed me. She never went too fancy or crazy with the food. For Thanksgiving I believe you should stick with the basics, but do them well. There is no need for fancy stuffing with crazy ingredients. Save that for a regular night when you are just having pork chops for dinner, Thanksgiving already has so much going on. Maureen also kept up with many small and perhaps unnoticed touches every year, like the pickle plate. We always had a pickle plate on the table. Things you may not notice year after year, but definitely do miss when they are gone.She always went above and beyond but somehow made it seem effortless. The reason is because she really does enjoy putting everything together, and you can tell by the way her food tastes and the atmosphere of the evening. The worst is when you go into someone's home and they are freaking out, running around, and look as if they might stab anyone who dares enter the kitchen. Don't offer to host if you are going to act like it is the biggest inconvenience, it makes everyone uncomfortable. If you do not have a choice...plan better, ask for help and keep reminding yourself that it DOES NOT have to be perfect. When all else fails grab yourself a glass of wine.
In Maureen's absence my Aunt Diane and Uncle Michael hosted this year. The dinner was delicous and the company was lovely, but it just wasn't the same and probably won't be for some time now. I might just have to go to Utah next year for Thanksgiving.